Laurie Rowan Drops The Ball
By Brett McKenzie on Oct 10, 2018
"The Cube: Part Two" brought to life by UK-based animator
The ADC 98th Annual Awards is now open for entries! The latest edition of the craft-focused design and advertising award show was launched with a campaign conceived by COLLINS, weaving a tale of adventure surrounding the coveted ADC Cube, as seen through the eyes of six different animators from across the globe. We'll be featuring the various artists as each installment of "The Cube" is released.
Laurie Rowan is an acclaimed animator, illustrator and game designer based in Brighton on England's south shores. Known for his very tactile and whimsical animation style, one that has been sought out for numerous children's projects, he has chalked up a slew of awards, including a 2015 BAFTA.
Laurie took a few moments to talk to us about his contribution to the ongoing ADC Annual Awards campaign— "The Cube: Part Two" — where our hero ADC Cube gets thrown into a ball pit of Laurie's own design.
How did you find yourself in this wild and crazy world of animation?
I’ve been animating professionally for about twelve years. I used to animate as a kid, making little clay animations and playing around with early versions of flash. Then I stopped. After I finished university and started working in a call centre, I didn’t know what I was doing and quickly learnt the importance of doing something you love for a career, from the other side. I had nothing to lose so moved back in with my parents for a couple of months until I produced enough work to get a job in a studio as an animator and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Working in a studio as part of a team helped me improve my skills and gave me access to clients and projects I wouldn’t know how to get on my own. I worked in studios for 8 years until I felt the creative need to go out on my own.
There was no moment I felt like I “made” it. Initially just get paid to do it felt like a massive privilege, but then you move onto the next goal, to be better, to reach a larger audience, to tell stories in a more effect way. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve made it.
How would you describe the style of your work, and how often do you try to break out of your style?
I’d describe my work as instinctual. For years I didn’t do things in my own style, it was often dictated by the client or the project, or fitting into what’s fashionable right now. As a response to that I wanted to create something that’s purely mine. My way of achieving that is to just do it, I start drawing and exploring and find ideas and motions that please me, I might go into it with a loose idea, but what you see is the result of play and just lots and lots of time experimenting. I do look for inspiration but try to keep it outside of looking at my contemporaries. I look at animals, exotic fish and folk costume, anything exciting and fun.
Another thing that will affect the way I approach something stylistically is the needs of the project, certain messages require certain moods and tones, so I have to adapt my approach to make sure I’m doing my best for all involved.
You present yourself as an animator and illustrator — what's the difference? Yeah, yeah, I know, one moves the other doesn't, but what's the difference in your professional mindset when taking on an animation project versus an illustration one?
(laughs) The main difference is literally the movement. But with that comes a different sets of values. I think I ask myself ‘where’s the fun coming from’. In an illustration everything has to be presented statically all in one moment. So I’ll seek to imply life through texture, expression and a well chosen pose. In animation there are a different set of opportunities available, you can express through the behavior of materials, things that squash or wave. You can surprise and reveal. You have to be more mindful of economy when creating an animation because it’s easy to overload and draw focus away from the details you want to be prominent.
How did this project come about? What interested you about taking on COLLINS' brief?
I was approached by COLLINS and it sounded fun. I was interested because it had to potential to extend my audience and there seemed like there was a lot of creative freedom, so that’s always appealing. I liked how simple the storyboard was. On the surface, it was a cube dropping into some balls and being picked up by a claw, so it was an interesting challenge to think how to keep it within these guidelines but turn it into something entirely different.
I work mainly with characters and get a lot of fun out of crowd dynamics, so when they told to make the iconic ADC Cube drop into a ball pit, it felt natural to me to turn them into variety of wonky creatures. The only limitation I set for myself was that the top of each character had to be the same in order to disguise them as balls upon scene entry. I had a lot of fun with this one.
"On the surface, it was a cube dropping into some balls and being picked up by a claw, so it was an interesting challenge to think how to keep it within these guidelines but turn it into something entirely different."
The complete video, with all of the contributions from the various animators, will have an "exquisite corpse" feel to it the end. Knowing that, did that affect what you created? Any thoughts on how your part lines up with Golgotha's "Part One"?
It only affected my approach in the purely technical aspect of making sure the entrance and exit point of the cube matched the storyboard, and making sure the cube appeared to be in motion before it entered my frame. I think the flow from one scene to the next works well and I like how entirely different they are.
What are your thoughts on the final piece? Is there anything you wish you had the chance to do with it? To some creatives, a piece is never "done", but to others, walking away without further tinkering is part of their nature.
I think the final piece is great. I love how different each interpretation is and you can really see each animator’s character showing through, yet it’s clearly an ongoing narrative throughout, really works.
I entirely agree that a piece never feels done. If I had the chance to go back to it, I’d bury a lot more character interactions in there. It’s things like that that reward repeat viewing, so I could add little glances and hints at character relationships endlessly.
The ADC Annual Awards has a tiered pricing system geared towards smaller shops and individuals, which coincidentally applies to you and your studio (hint, hint!) How important are awards and accolades to small studios and freelancers?
Awards are important. For me they’ve helped as an introduction to new clients, it’s a shorthand of saying ‘I’m worth investigating, I’m a proven quantity’. After I won a Bafta in 2015, I noticed a shift in the kind of work I was being offered.
What's next on the horizon for you? What projects should we be keeping an eye out for?
I’m working on a few things. Unfortunately they’re all protected by NDAs so telling you would get me in a lot of trouble! But they’re exciting projects for companies you’ll have heard of. I’m very impatient to be able to talk about them…
In terms of my own work I’m writing a short film which I hope to release next year, I’m in talks about a sitcom I’ve been developing and co writing with my friend comedian Sean McLoughlin and I’m art directing a musical for next year’s Edinburgh festival.
The ADC 98th Annual Awards is now accepting entries across a wide variety of creative disciplines. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2019.
LAURIE ROWAN PROJECTS
Ways of Seeing | Fact Liverpool | Canvas x It’s Nice That
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